>> Wednesday, March 5, 2014
103-19 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Forest Hills' original gastropub is Dirty Pierre's, which sits almost anonymously on the Station Square cobblestones under scaffolding that's probably been in the neighborhood longer than you have. Known for their mussels, their burgers, and an interior that made food truck seating feel spacious, Dirty Pierre's decided to open a second outlet on Metropolitan which they named The Other Place. There may be no foot traffic or subway access, but you can get a decent-sized space for a decent-sized price. Myna, Pike, and I headed over to check it out.
If Dirty Pierre's is small, then The Other Place is massive. There's a very large bar area and an even more humongous rear dining area. Unlike Dirty Pierre's, who homeless shelter chic furniture might be cute to some, The Other Place is brand new (with tablecloths, ooh la la). Location, size, and diveyness. Those are the three differences. The food and the drinks, though, are all the same.
Let's start with the drinks. Myna and Pike both got sangria, red and white. They liked it. Nuff said. I ordered a beer. A Guinness. A Guinness in a can. The old Dirty Pierre's only sells beer by the bottle (or can). No tap. Forget asking if they have a daily cask ale, they don't have Miller Lite. Unless it's in a bottle. Now, the thing is, this is forgivable in exclusive part because it goes with Dirty Pierre's divey shithole motif. But no other place can get away with it, not even The Other Place. The Other Place isn't trying to be a divey shithole. It's brand new. Its waiters wear black. And remember those tablecloths? That The Other Place would only sell beer by the bottle is utterly nonsensical. The craft beer scene has exploded in recent years and to avoid selling it or any other beers that only come by the keg is like pissing money away. Add to this that it's not like the kitchen is churning out wasabi glazed mahi mahi or roquefort cheese filet mignon under a shallot wine sauce. There are burgers and quesadillas and the mussels that Dirty Pierre's used to sell all-you-can-eat until people couldn't stop eating them. It's basically a the same exact Dirty Pierre's dive bar menu in a non-divey environment.
Oh, and there's a ping pong ball table.
Given the popularity of the original mussels, I decided that I'd order a round of the Mussels, served in a white wine broth with a baguette. Skip them. I don't know what was different between these and how they used to be but it couldn't have been more bland and tasteless if it tried. Super disappointing. Pike ordered a crock of the French Onion Soup, which he was also nonplussed by. It was far too sweet, almost like French onion syrup. Myna ordered off of the specials menu and tried the Bacon Stuffed Artichoke, which in her words was "was like chewing on an artichoke-flavored orange rind." It was tough and leathery and almost devoid of the edible part of the artichoke.
When the entrees came, Myna had the Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Bacon which she said was perfectly fine. I ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich because a great chicken sandwich can just blow me away. This, however, did not blow me away. It looked like the chicken sandwich crawled onto the plate and then just gave up. Sorry, but sticking a piece of bland grilled chicken between an English muffin does not, on its own, cut it. Pike ordered the Burger because it's what Dirty Pierre's is known for other than mussels. Contrary to the rest of the meal, he was not disappointed. "This is really good." In my opinion, though, a little plating would have been appreciated. I mean, come on.
Long story short, I left more than a little disappointed. The service was good. Our waitress was very nice, but clearly there is a LOT of work that needs to be done. The Other Place is too clean and respectable looking to be a dive bar and it's doesn't even have an impressive enough menu to be a gastropub. It needs its own menu. It's needs its own draw. It needs a real bar. It needs a real menu. It has the space for bocce ball or shuffleboard. They can host a game night or trivia night. There's so much potential here being completely wasted. Just being Dirty Pierre's 2 won't cut it. Not even a little. So, for the time being, I'll stick to Station House and Banter.
FOLLOW UP THOUGHTS:
The problem isn't the set up but the follow through. The space itself is very well put together, if a little too well lit. The menu was a cut and paste rehash, the bar is a refrigerator with a guy standing in front of it, and the food was notably subpar. Though hell, maybe I'm just a snob.
It's clear that TOP has yet to figure out what it wants to be. It's almost like the Dirty Pierre guys saw that a location was available and grabbed it without a strategy in mind. If it wants to be a fun, upscale Park Slopesque hangout where stroller set families can drink while the kiddos nap and the grad students can play scrabble and drink Troegs IPAs while listening to a Shins cover band, then it should set itself up to be that. If it wants to be a real restaurant with linens and a wine list and fine cheeses and organic, locavore, sustainably raised ingredients, then it should hire a full time chef who can put together a totally fresh menu and be that. If it wants to be a bar where ol' hub goes because wifey kicked him out because she doesn't want him and his loser bum alcoholic friends drinking and watching the Jets game in the living room and pissing next to the toilet instead of inside of it, then they should throw up some TVs, toss some straw on the floor, unscrew a few light bulbs, write some limericks about blowjobs with a sharpie pen in the bathroom, and it should be that. But it can't be all three and it can't be another Dirty Pierre, which works for reasons unique to itself.
Ultimately, despite Metropolitan's rise in popularity as a restaurant street, it will never be Austin Street. It has no foot traffic. It has no real "shops". No one chooses to wander around Metropolitan the way they wander Austin. Hell, even if for some God-knows-why reason someone actually actively chose to meander the avenue, they still have to get there. Metropolitan has 1) limited parking (have fun looking for a spot between the driveways), 2) limited access to public transportation (just the bus, which is currently in a traffic jam), and 3) a small population density (houses instead of buildings). Since the customer base is over thataway somewhere, they won't wind up on Metropolitan by accident but by design. They need a reason to go out of their way. The Other Place has yet to give them a reason. Maybe one day they will.